IndyCar: Major Story Lines Surrounding the 2011 Indianapolis 500
You can't tell judging by the weather, but it is officially May in Indianapolis; might as well be Christmas.
For most of us hardcore racing fans, it doesn't get any bigger or any better than the Indianapolis 500. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will always be the crown jewel of motorsports, even if there are no Foyt, Unser, or Mears names in the field.
The IndyCar Series has been on a recent upswing, but will be looking for a better showing than last weekend's messy race in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The weather conditions were terrible, and the race did not go as planned; except for Will Power.
As we turn our attention to the Indy 500 (and not the aero kit news announced today), there are several interesting story lines that we will be following.
I will be covering all of the action at the Speedway every day; from Opening Day, until the winner finishes his traditional glass of milk in Victory Lane.
Is Dario Franchitti Still the Favorite?
Dario was untouchable last year, as he drove his way to victory lane for the second time.
He’s won the 500 twice since 2007, and he’s finished on the podium in each of the first three races this season, and finished fourth last weekend in Sao Paulo.
Sitting behind Will Power in the points will only drive him even more to capture his third "500" win.
Can Will Power Dominate on an Oval?
Speaking of Will Power, the points leader has dominated so far this season.Since joining Team Penske, Power has captured 14 poles in just 27 races.
The question everyone is asking now is will he finally be able to have the same success on the ovals?
He, like his Penske teammates, should be challenging Franchitti and Dixon for the pole once again this May.
Danica Patrick's Final "500"
Like it or not, a majority of the focus this year will once again be on Danica Patrick. For good reason though, as this could be her last real attempt at winning the Indianapolis 500.
She has run well here, and a win would almost certainly mean the end of her IndyCar career, as if it were still undecided.
On the flip side, if she comes up short again, will she still try to scratch that itch after this season?
Time for Helio to Remember That He Is Helio
Helio has had an un-Helio type of season so far. Perhaps there is no better place for him to break his slump than Indy.
Winning for a record-tying fourth time would certainly make him forget about all of the previous disappointments they have had this year.
There is no doubt he will be trying just as hard as anyone else, which could mean trouble for the rest of the field.
Can a Non-Penske/Ganassi Car Win the 500?
Eight of the last 11 Indianapolis 500 mile races have been won by either Team Penske or Chip Ganassi's team.
With the stranglehold they continue to have on the series, will any other driver have a legitimate chance at winning this year?
All of the Andretti Autosport drivers look to be in contention, as they will field five cars for this year's event.
Outside of that team, be sure to keep your eye on Tony Kanaan with KV Racing, as well as Alex Tagliani and Dan Wheldon.
Tony Kanaan's Time?
Perhaps the luck of Tony Kanaan isn't quite comparable to the Andretti's yet, but he has had his fair share of bad luck at Indy.
Last year he had multiple problems in qualifying, and almost didn't make the field after wrecking his car twice. Now with KV Racing, Kanaan looks to turn over a new leaf as he makes his return to IMS.
He has been on fire this year, even though last weekend's race in Brazil didn't go according to plan. Bottom line, Tony knows his way around this place, and he will be fast.
Mike Conway; Last Year and This Year
We are still gathering information on the over/under for how many times Mike Conway will be asked about his crash in last year's Indy 500.
He has however, given people plenty of other things to talk about. He has had an incredible start with his new team, Andretti Autosport. He already has a win this season, and has performed well in every race so far.
Still, his crash last season will be on the minds of everyone, but he could really flip the script with a statement win here in Indy.
The Battle for Rookie of the Year
Often times, the rookies are judged in a class of their own in the race.
They aren't expected to contend for the win, let alone race up front. This year, we could see that change, as the field features five promising young rookies, led by James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand.
The other three rookies, James Jakes, Charlie Kimball, and Jay Howard could also surprise some people this May.
How Will Americans Perform This Year?
While it isn't a huge deal to me, many fans here in America will strongly root for the American drivers.
While only two Americans have won the race since 1999, we must remember the first two winners of this race, Ray Harroun and Joe Dawson, were both American drivers.
The field looks stronger this year with such talents as Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, JR Hildebrand, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Davey Hamilton, and Ed Carpenter, with possible others.
The talent might not be as rich as the top-tier Brazilians and drivers from England, but the depth is certainly there. Many more story lines will find their way to the headlines even before Opening Day, so keep up with my articles here on Bleacher Report.
I will have coverage from the track every day, and will continue to follow the series all season long.